Since 1976, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning has honored the memory of the little girl in its name by giving the youngest learners a solid start to their educations.
“We have our BASES-K program, which is bridging academically, social emotional support and preparing kids for kindergarten, giving them that language, giving them that self-regulation, giving them abilities to be able to think about how they feel and be able to express those thoughts,” said program specialist Latoya Hazzard. “(When you’re here), you’re definitely going to see children enjoying learning. You’re going to see children playing and being delightful and excited.”
Every year, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning holds ceremonies and social justice activities in remembrance of Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and Carol McNair — the four little girls killed in a 1963 white supremacist attack on the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Robertson’s sister, Dianne Robertson Braddock, said her family was intrigued when a group of Chicago parents asked the family for permission to name their new after-school program to honor Carole over a decade after the bombing.
“We are a family of educators, and we know the importance of education and a safe environment for children,” Robertson Braddock said. “And so we were very enticed. My mother thought about it and then she consulted me and my brother, and we went to Chicago to make a visit and get more information and see what the program would be about. We were very, very happy and I’ll never forget that my mother just cried after she made the decision that we would allow the program to use Carole’s name. I think that it meant so much to my mother.”
Hazzard said the girls’ legacy continues to serve as a guiding light for the center.
“Every year we have Legacy Week, and that pays homage to the four little girls to make sure that we’re always educating and enriching our families on those social justice issues so that we don’t forget,” Hazzard said. “I want our children to know that because they are our future leaders.”
Robertson Braddock said she and her family have been proud to watch the Carole Robertson Center for Learning grow over the years.
“I think that when we have information about each other, we feel differently about each other, we care for each other in a different way, and that’s what the center embeds — finding those areas that bind us together,” Robertson Braddock said.
“The Carole Robertson Center was started just from an after-school program, and that was 40-some years ago,” Hazzard said. “But now look. We have a birth through 5 program. We have the after-school program. We have the summer program as well. We have family support specialists, we have the home visiting program. So just the fact that we came so far and to be able to serve this underprivileged community for so many years is a big thing.”